Three Ways to Handle a Difficult Volunteer

The title of this blog post may be a bit deceiving... So, let me start by saying that I have spent much of my career working with volunteers. It has truly been my favorite part about working in the nonprofit sector. My first 'real' job was as a volunteer coordinator, managing over 100 passionate volunteers. Of those volunteers, I want to say that less than 1% of these dedicated volunteers have been described as "difficult." But, those difficult volunteers can cause some serious mayhem. That is why I wanted to use this blog post to briefly touch on my experiences on how to best deal with that 1% of difficult volunteers.


For starters, you cannot ignore a difficult volunteer. Difficult volunteers can create division and lower morale, causing people to become frustrated and even leave your organization. To avoid these disastrous scenarios, I would like to present three ways to handle a problematic volunteer:

  1. Define the problem and separate the person from the problem. Interview employees and volunteers that are familiar with the situation. Do not engage in the gossip of any kind.

  2. Have a face-to-face conversation with the problematic volunteer. Depending on the situation, it may be essential to have someone with you. Over the past year, I have learned first-hand how important it is to converse with someone rather than send out a blanket policy memo.

  3. Solidify a follow-up plan. A follow-up plan includes checking on the person, as they may have verbalized a personal issue in your face-to-face conversation. A follow-up plan should also include an evaluation of progress. It is essential to agree on evaluation criteria to evaluate growth best.

Like all employees, volunteers must have clear roles and a complete understanding of their duties and responsibilities. Consistent and regular training is required for volunteers, as they do not need you for a paycheck. They do not have to be there, and working with volunteers should be considered a privilege. Do you have a specific question about a problematic volunteer?


Reach out to me through the 'Contact' section of this website.

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